Pierce Atwood LLP hosted this morning Kathleen Newman, Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for Governor LePage and Michael Cianchette, Chief Legal Counsel, Office of the Governor for a discussion about Maine’s fiscal and policy landscape.
The event, facilitated by Pierce Atwood’s Government Relations practice group as part of their Inside Policy Series, attracted nearly 50 individuals from various industries including business, healthcare, education, real estate and development, banking, technology and professional services.
Ms. Newman and Mr. Cianchette discussed proposed curtailment decisions that involve reducing State spending by $35.5 million. The proposed curtailment cuts are temporary in nature and will be more closely examined by the Legislature through an anticipated supplemental budget bill that will be submitted to the Legislature by Friday, January 11th. Ms. Newman commented that Governor Baldacci’s curtailments have been used as a guide to the decision making process, and that the Administration is evaluating cuts equitably and across all departments.
With the Governor’s curtailment order issued, the Administration is now focused on supplemental and biennial budget proposals. Ms. Newman discussed how decisions were made in order to balance the current fiscal year’s budget. Further, she discussed the Governor’s priorities when assembling the comprehensive spending plan for the next two State fiscal years, explaining that the structural gap was closed through reductions in spending and some minor revenue raisers but not through across the board tax increases.
This discussion of Maine’s fiscal landscape also touched upon the debt owed to Maine’s hospitals, which Mr. Cianchette and Ms. Newman both characterized as a top priority of the Governor. The Administration will propose a plan for paying Maine’s hospitals and, should a plan for paying this debt be adopted, will begin to consider general obligation bonding by the State.
The discussion also touched on education and Ms. Newman indicated that changes are coming. Currently, over $50 million in education spending is allocated for pension and retiree health benefits, an investment that is not improving education for Maine’s students. The Administration will continue to push for district accountability for pension and health benefits, a grading scale for schools that will help the public understand how well schools are serving their students, and expanded virtual education options, especially to benefit rural areas of the State.
Pierce Atwood’s Government Relations Practice Group will host another Inside Policy Series event on Maine’s fiscal and policy landscape later this month and continue this discussion with members of Maine’s Legislative leadership. Speakers will include: Senate President, Justin Alfond; Speaker of the House, Mark Eves; Senate Minority Leader Michael Thibodeau; and House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette.
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